The Winamp Skin Museum lets you relive the wonderful chaos of late-’90s computing

Just a taste of the riches that await you.
Image: Winamp Skin Museum

Every now and again, individuals of a certain generation (my generation) have a tendency to fall into a catatonic state whenever we remember Winamp skins. There’s just something about them that instantly transports one back to the late ‘90s / early ‘00s, when user interfaces were truly customizable, and your music collection was an endless and engrossing battle against garbled filenames like LINKIN_PORK-IN%THE%END(HQ).mp3.

If any of that is triggering a nostalgic response, then you’ll probably enjoy the Winamp Skin Museum. It’s an endlessly scrolling collection of 65,000 Winamp skins, searchable and fully interactive. There’s a default playlist (which includes the “Llama Whippin’ Intro”), and you can even load audio files into it from your computer, if you happen to have any lying around.

The skins were previously collected on the Internet Archive but assembled into this new accessible format by Facebook engineer Jordan Eldredge. On Twitter, Eldredge notes he’s still taking collections for the project if you have any skins you want to donate, and he describes the collection as capturing “an iconic moment in internet art history.”

He’s not wrong. The taste on display in the Winamp Skin Museum is, in a word, stunning. It has all of the artistic value of a national art gallery, but it focuses in on late-’90s / early-’00s aesthetics with enough raw energy to bring back nü metal.

On display, you can see anime skins, gaming skins, communist skins, sci-fi skins, skins dedicated to particular artists, and a cornucopia of indescribable vibes in between. The only disappointment is that the format of the museum doesn’t lend itself to supporting the stranger skins that transformed the size and shape of Winamp’s various elements. But perhaps that would have been too much for today’s modern, sleek UIs to handle.

You can even load up visualizations.

This is the weird thing about Winamp skins, though: they don’t just capture a visual aesthetic, but a mode of interaction with technology. Personally, they remind me of an era when it felt like I had more control over my computer. I could customize Winamp skins, sure, but also my whole desktop, down to my extremely carefully collated music collection.

There was also something about having to sort through files and dig up album art that encouraged a sort of engagement with music that feels, to me, very different to today’s streaming model. Spotify, compared to Winamp, seems passive. You’ll get your Discover playlist, and you’ll like it. (And I do.) You could argue that we’ve traded into this chaotic customization for convenience. But was it worth it? Probably. Perhaps all I’m really missing is a period of my life when I had time and energy to mess about with that sort of thing. Arguably, computers are just as customizable, if you care to put in the effort.

But you see what I mean, now? Winamp skins, dude. They really take you back.

Comments

This is seriously so awesome!! I never really used win amp but this is just so awesome to see saved from being forgotten

It really whips the llama’s ass.

Wow – there’s 4 or 5 I instantly remember installing. Some only lasted a day or two, but some I’d regularly go back to (more often the ones that made it look like an actual hifi or car stereo)

I loved customizing winamp skins. And organizing music in general, man, it used to take up so many happy hours.

The only disappointment is that the format of the museum doesn’t lend itself to supporting the stranger skins that transformed the size and shape of Winamp’s various elements

You’re probably thinking of Winamp 3 and beyond, which wasn’t quite "late-’90s computing" nor really loved by Winamp’s core user base.

This is good content! Really cool that one of the included songs are from Diablo Swing Orchestra, they deserve more recognition (that whole album, the butcher’s ballroom, is a hoot), although it’s not matching the time frame of the winamp glory days really.

You’re all still using Winamp right? shifts uneasily

It’s still installed on my system! I don’t listen to as much music now so it’s not used so often (cancelled my Spotify sub months ago because I was just not using it), but when I do I call it up!

Wow… this is really nostalgic. Does anyone remember Gamut2000 music player.

I do have some nostalgia for that late-90’s early-00’s computer software aesthetic, with the glossy buttons and shiny metal.

I still use Winamp DAILY, but with the default green/black skin these days. I used to enjoy an Advanced Media Player theme that matched the CD player in Windows at the time…ah memories…

AND HERE IT IS:
https://skins.webamp.org/skin/d7af9a56a97e9119ca783e58596a4bcf/Advanced.wsz/

From the time computers were interesting, inventive and exciting.

I was not cool enough for WinAmp. I used Musicmatch Jukebox.

Wow, that gave me a flashback! I used both, but I recall Musicmatch Jukebox being more feature-rich somehow. Winamp was always there in case I had a file that wouldn’t work on anything else. (It seemed I could always get a file to work in Winamp.)

There was also something about having to sort through files and dig up album art that encouraged a sort of engagement with music that feels, to me, very different to today’s streaming model.

This is so true. It’s so much easier today and the amount of music I have access to seems infinite yet I sometimes miss the days of building and curating my MP3 collection. I actually had to seek out music. This even makes me nostalgic for burning custom CD mixes and printing custom labels for them before the iPod came along and you could put thousands of songs on one device (which seemed amazing to me at the time.)

You can even load up visualizations.

Visualizations were actually my favorite thing about Winamp and other music players back then. But it’s been so long that I can’t remember how to load visualizations on Winamp. Anyone have any idea how that would work using the skins in the linked Museum?

When you select a skin, click the "[Webamp]" link at the bottom of the screen. It will take you to https://webamp.org/ where you can see the visualizations

Fantastic, thank you!

This makes me super nostalgic. Here’s the skin I used forever. https://skins.webamp.org/skin/f90bb1f39d4d0aaee6119b100a8bfba2/spyamppro.wsz/

I came to Winamp later on. It was my dad’s favorite, but for me the nostalgia will always go to Sonique.

This reminds me of the time where you could customize the entire Windows UI into an abomination. Santa Claus mouse pointer with snow falling from it wherever you move? Check. Mouse trails? Yup. Super over-engineered screen saver? Yup. Christmas colors for buttons and menus? You got it.

And you could keep stacking things until your install slowed to a complete crawl. Ah, those were the days

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